Wherein I stop being liberal and start standing up for what I believe

AdamF Charity, children, christ, primary 60 Comments

A lot of what I talk about in regard to the church is a reaction against something else. For a period of time my wife even stopped talking to me about Relief Society lessons because of what I would argue or disagree with. After a lot of self-reflection over the past few months, I realized my problem: I am not standing up for what I believe is right, I’m just arguing with those who do. When I think there is an over-emphasis on necklines or haircuts, or a teacher presents something that I think is wrong, I want to speak out.

So far there are some good and bad sides to this. On the one hand, I am much more enthusiastic and enjoy the good parts of the meetings A LOT more. On the other hand, I’m still not sure what to do when something is happening that I think is wrong. For example, one person in my ward (not the bishop, but in a fairly prominent position) during each of the last few weeks has taught some things that I felt were false and misleading, to say the least. I’m sure this person has good intentions and doesn’t know of the error, but it is REALLY starting to concern me as I have a young son who will hear these lessons over and over again, and there is no way I’m going to be able to catch every comment about how important issues like earrings are, or how Lehi “sailed to America” or how John Taylor’s watch saved his life. During a recent lesson my wife said I “visibly scoffed” after one of these things was shared. It wasn’t intentional, but when I hear things like that I guess I can’t help it.

So what should I do? How do I keep the peace and not upset the apple cart, so to speak, while still standing up for what I believe in? We can’t let these things slide, or the truth will be the victim of the comfort-level of the crowd.

If anything, all this has taught me that the Truths of the gospel are the things that can be simplified without being twisted, distorted, or whitewashed. Love one another. Serve each other. Grow. Be kind. Reach out to those who are suffering. That is what I’m teaching my sunbeam class, and that is what I want my son to learn.

Comments

comments

Comments 60

  1. My wife can always tell when a lesson like this is going on in EQ as there are always at least 3-4 posts on Facebook from people in the ward during that time. Right or wrong, I just zone out. It’s a cop-out, but it’s what is expected in the Church for the sake of the organization. You’ll never change it.

  2. Post
    Author

    It’s too bad, because one (or a few) teachers in a ward should not be controlling everything. However, I also don’t want to teach my son to be critical of EVERYTHING, nor do I want to be one of those elderly men in some wards who yell out stuff like “NOT DOCTRINE!” in meetings. 🙂

  3. Can you take it to this brother in private?

    If you can, you may find you win a respected friend.

    If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable, maybe it’s not worth worrying about.

    Most important…set the example for you son on how he should handle things, and teach things in your home about what you feel are true teachings that will benefit your family.

  4. Post
    Author

    Good call Heber. If it continues to be a problem I may do that… also a good point about teaching my son. I know I can’t control everything that he learns, but I am starting to see the importance of good ol’ FHE and even just plain teaching the gospel to our children. We should not leave it in the hands of others, for many reasons, but this one is really important to me.

  5. I can relate. My daughter is 14 and comes home asking me about things she learned in YW that make me cringe. I find that I LOVE those discussions and the times she comes to me with trust…they are bonding times. Sometimes we have FHE, sometimes just spontaneous gospel discussions and whip out the standard works for a few clarifying scriptures.

    I find I balance my responses with 1) What I really think is gospel doctrine as far as I understand it; and 2) teaching her to be respectful to leaders and not going to church with a mission to find every flaw in every teacher. Often i get her to admit there is greater things that were taught that shouldn’t be overshadowed by the 1 flaky response that we should dismiss.

    I think she has learned they are just people volunteering to teach, so they don’t get everything right and they just try their best. That’s a good lesson of tolerance and love for her to understand early in the church.

    Of course, it is not always brotherly love and warm greetings…I currently have some fallout from disagreeing with For Strength of Youth teachings in my ward compared to my teachings in my house with my kids. Oh well. But I stand for what I believe, which is the rules should teach a lesson…not we obey the rules until we understand the lesson.

  6. AdamF-

    I think it is really important to just talk to your kids….A LOT. When my children come home with things they have learned that I don’t agree with, we hash it out and I always stress that they need to listen to different sides of a situation before making a decision, or refrain from making a decision for a time. If we teach our children to have open minds and to see things from different perspectives, we are doing them a great service and they will be better people all the way around.

    As far as when to say things at church and when not to, in my personal experience, I have had many times where I have thought things, but knew it wasn’t a good idea to say them. Other times, however, I have felt it is necessary and have said what I felt was important. Overall, I have learned that most of the time, it is better to leave things alone, realizing that most people will forget what they heard within a few days anyway. 🙂 FHE is a great way to teach your children your views and to reinforce them during the week in daily living. I think it makes a big difference.

  7. I struggle with this in my ward, however this is more to do with my attitude. I have found myself becoming more and more cynical I would love to learn how to overcome this. As I have come to know the imperfections of early prophets, difficulties with our histories, differences in opinion with leadership and noticing the difference between conversion to church vs conversion to Christ. I’m very quickly becoming very critical of the “Molly Mormon” & “Peter Priesthood” narratives.

  8. Hmm, I just try hard not to roll my eyes in MrQandA’s favorite narratives 😉 and assume that it’s their own experience and has whatever meaning they’ve given it, and so on. It’s great practice if you ever want to learn to keep a straight face through anything. But I know the feeling, for sure.

    I don’t have kids, so I don’t have that perspective. But I’ve found that I have to pick my battles wisely, and stand up for the ones that I feel are more important. I do, however, think it’s perfectly okay to take the same approach as I have to grad school: if I’m going to make a commitment and put my time into it, then I’m going to make sure I ask questions about the things disagree with or don’t understand (at least don’t understand where their inferences come from). Sure, it puts the teacher on the spot (probably a bigger deal for a sunday school teacher than a professor), but if it’s incorrect or not fully thought through, then it’s an opportunity to “set the record straight.” If I just didn’t know something, I go get my own background on it and figure out where I stand on the matter.

    As much as I think the old guys yelling “NOT DOCTRINE!” are awesome and provide some much-needed perspective… 🙂

  9. Well, I love a good Gospel Doctrine smackdown as well as the next person. It sure beats the 500th recounting of the ill-fated handcart excursions and their angelic, frostbitten rescuers. Even better when someone else is going at it and I can just *grab popcorn* and enjoy the pyrotechnic display! Fortunately, in my ward, there are plenty of people who are unwilling to let faulty or intolerant assumptions go unchallenged. It only really gets smackdown-y when the person who made the faulty of intolerant statement fails to recant when confronted, a rarity since Mormons tend to be a pretty polite bunch.

    I once observed that the story of Ammon cutting off all those arms yet not killing anyone strains credulity. I think a few people were shocked that I said that, but come on, people. No one died from loss of blood? What is this? The Holy Grail? “I’ll nibble your ankles!” Frankly, the fact that such an implausible story is in there makes it more like an ancient record (there’s some pretty crazy stuff in the OT, too), so I didn’t consider it a terribly heretic comment.

  10. Adam, I am guessing from your fuzzy details that the teacher is more conservative than you are. I suppose I am more liberal than people in my ward, and I was released from Gospel Doctrine for being too liberal. So, I guess both liberals and conservatives can be viewed as not mainstream enough by different people in the ward.

    I don’t know if my approach is the best, but I bring a book and just read something edifying to me. Frankly, the last 2 books I’ve read have really taught me tons more about consecration than anything I’ve ever learned in church. I just posted on it at my blog, and one commenter said my meat was a little “gamey.” Perhaps it is, but I really enjoy my personal study over an ill-prepared or “by the book” Gospel Doctrine teacher.

    I’ve never been a fan of the ill-fated handcart company stories, but I have to say that “Great Basin Kingdom” by Leonard Arrington (former church historian) gave me some truly interesting and inspiring information about the handcart companies that one just doesn’t find in Gospel Doctrine class (but they would have it they didn’t release me… ) 🙂 Frankly, I have gained a new respect for these early pioneers. The Bloggernacle has been much more edifying that Sunday School classes for me. And when I don’t scoff at church, it’s better for everyone.

  11. Social interaction is indeed different in Church and Sunday School etc. , than in everyday society. – mainly due to 2 overiding principles:
    [1] “When 2 or 3 are gathered in My Name. – I will be there”.
    [2] There is to be no contention in Church.

    There are times when you can see and feel others as they struggle to be humble when disagreement arises over some issue – lest they be labled as contenteous and I’m still amazed that the right answer eventually comes out. But I suppose, in some wards, it may not work out that way.

  12. I would say that I have to pick my battles. The John Taylor watch thing I don’t really care about. But there would be other issues that I would. Moreover, if I can make the point without upsetting people then I will. If I can’t, I may well make a similar point but without enforcing the full extent of my conviction. I too do not want to become the controversial guy in S/S. We don’t have people who shout out ‘NOT DOCTRINE’.

  13. “I have found myself becoming more and more cynical I would love to learn how to overcome this.” I have this problem as well. One of the things I’ve found useful is an old (1979!) talk by Bruce Hafen. I read it in a book he published, but I think it’s identical to this version.

    “I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law students that those who take too much delight in their finely honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness, in the church and elsewhere, because they can become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to commit themselves.”

  14. Just want to thank everyone for a great discussion.

    I think one’s attitude generally shines through in the tone, and I think people tend to react to perceived attitude as much as, if not more than, the actual words that are used. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s important to choose one’s words carefully. I just think it’s as important to moderate one’s tone intentionally.

    Disagreements don’t have to be contentious or turn into fights.

  15. Thanks for the helpful comments…

    I should add, as I wasn’t clear enough earlier, that all this is occurring in Primary. That is why it is personal. My son will be in primary soon and that is why it concerns me. In gospel doctrine we have 2-3 people who speak out which is nice, although there are also as many who speak out against anything that isn’t whitewashed. 🙂

  16. I find that my participation (or at least reading) of the Bloggernacle has opened up my eyes quite a bit to the feelings and experiences of a diverse group of people, especially “outsiders”. This allows me to contribute different perspectives to Sunday School discussions, and when I feel I’m participating in that way, it helps alleviate my common urges to “correct” people, because I can present the views in a way that doesn’t make people feel like they’re being attacked or looked down upon.

  17. Maybe we are seeing the negative side to the Sesame Street approach to primary.

    This would change the dynamic completely. I guess that adults discussing these issues is not what is expected from primary. I am not sure how I would handle this either, aside from speaking to the person afterward. But that is difficult as well because it almost can make it a really big thing as soon as you say ‘Can I speak to you for a minute about something you said in your presentation today?’ The person will probably be on the defensive straight away.

  18. Don’t you think you are expecting a lot out of the people who are volunteering to teach in primary? We patiently love the ward’s wildest, most energtic members, must we be great church historians (up to your standards – of course), be prepared to defend our lack of education in a gospel confrontation with you if we dare mention what’s in our church manual, must we all have the same strengths and ablities in your eyes to be equal? Could you go to church for ten years and after sacrament meeting, instead of going to adult meetings, veer off into the children’s primary wing and have only them as your source of Sunday companionship? If anyone deserves to have a whinefest it is those living saints. After church they go home, not with the self satisfaction of having made the church a better place by having corrected a line of pioneer history, but with a circle of dried saltwater on their shoulder where they dried the tear of your child and comforted him and loved him and made him happy. Come on Dad. The real teaching goes on at home. Stop looking where the problem isn’t. I don’t remember a thing my primary teachers taught me. I just know that they loved me. I remember mostly what my parents taught me –through their actions.

  19. Thanks chorister. I agree the real teaching goes on at home.

    I said nothing about being an educated church historian. I am not even an amateur. Also, I think you are bringing some of your own stuff into this, as I didn’t say I was expecting anything. Nothing. My issue is what to do about standing for something rather than having a “whinefest” (which is exactly what I DON’T want to do). And again, as I said, I AM in primary. I DO dry the tears. 🙂

    The problem is real, at least in my culture. I have numerous friends and acquaintances who have left the church, and a big part of that is all the stuff they were taught in primary and seminary that they found out later was twisted or just plain false. Letting the presidents and the teachers and etc. off the hook because they are “volunteering” evades the issue I think. I don’t want my son to be illusioned, nor disillusioned. That is why I agree it is SO important to teach at home, but I don’t want him to become a critic or a “whiner” about everything at church either. Standing for something is all I’m after… and how to do it in a loving and Christlike way.

  20. Rico, the “Sesame Street” approach may be fine, imho, as long as we stick to those principles that CAN be simplified, i.e. the real truths of the gospel. A LOT of primary revolves around those teachings, and that is a part I love.

  21. Adam, you said: “Standing for something is all I’m after… and how to do it in a loving and Christlike way.”

    That’s a great statement.

    And I think while the approach must be done in love (Christ-like), there is importance to standing for something. If the purpose of class is to go and learn the gospel of Christ, why should we settle for half-truths or traditions of our fathers that do not help our children in the future?

    With the Internet and access to so much church history, and with the growth of the church that has attracted so much attention from other religions and nay-sayers…I certainly want my kids growing up armed with truth and knowledge so they are not blind-sided by facts that weren’t properly taught in primary and YM/YW, and feel they were lied to or sheltered.

    I am not making my 10 year old read Rough Stone Rolling for FHE, that is unnecessary. But the world they are growing up in is different than what it was when I was growing up, and I think the church should be there to support my family, and teach them…not just go to church for story time of legends and “fried froth” or “twinkies” that don’t fulfill the soul. They need to be taught at church to prepare them for their world. There is probably more required of good primary teachers now then there was 30 years ago. I’m not sure the lesson manuals have caught up to that, IMO. Some feedback to the teachers or the leadership would be appropriate, but the ultimate responsibility resides with me teaching my kids in my home. It just should be such a difficult thing for me to teach things in my home and have the church be teaching the same thing.

  22. Sorry, I was making a in-joke to us MM readers, but I guess I need to be better at using emoticons. Thanks though. And I of course agree.

  23. adamf:

    You write in #19: “I have numerous friends and aquaintances who have left the Church, and a big part of that is all the stuff they were taught in primary and seminary that they found out later was twisted or false”.
    It sounds, as if, your friends were lied to. Could you be specific on what the lies/mistakes were?

    Testimonies can be powerfull. I remember, as a small child, hearing about Bible stories and I would ask my Grandfather if they were true. He looked me in the eye and said yes, – and I knew him and I knew that he believed.
    I asked another relative the same question and I could tell, at my young age, that they really did not believe. But my Grandfather’s testimony was good enough for me and it stuck with me until I received my own testimony.

  24. I’m going to agree with primary chorister on what I think is the most important point: I don’t think very many of us remember what we learned in Primary–I don’t either. But I do remember how I felt. I remember that one or two teachers really loved me, and I remember that many of them were just going through the motions. I really only remember one Primary teacher–Sister Hunter. I don’t remember a thing she taught, but I remember that she loved me.

  25. #13:
    “I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law students that those who take too much delight in their finely honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness, in the church and elsewhere, because they can become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to commit themselves.”

    Well, thanks for the official “disturbing quotation of the day.” I notice Hafen didn’t say “If you see issues, it’s best to keep them to yourself.” Instead, his message amounts to “Don’t think too much! Using the brain your deity gave you is WRONG, and will HURT YOU!”

  26. Nick, you obviously didn’t read the article (speech) from which that line was taken. Please go read it, it is wonderful. It couldn’t be further from advocating a “don’t think too much” approach.

  27. Knowing that this is about Primary changes my perspective considerably! Personally, I think that it’s unrealistic to think that kids will appreciate nuance. It’s just not how kids’ brains work. I’m all for preaching tolerance to them and for providing some nuance to the stories, but the myths and fairy tales that we appreciate as metaphor when we are adults are very real to children. We hear Hansel & Gretel as adults and realize that it’s partly a story about the outcasts of society, the pedophiles and Jeffrey Dahlmers. Kids think witches are real (but also kind of silly) because that’s what they can deal with: a symbol of evil. As adults, we read the story of Jacob and can see that he’s a bit weasly, a conniving manipulator who tricks his father into giving him a blessing and tricks his brother out of his birthright. Kids aren’t able to understand that kind of nuance yet. They see that the ends justified the means, that Esau was the villain of the piece, that Jacob deserved everything good, etc. I think that what kids hear has very little to do with what we actually say. At those younger ages, they simply don’t understand that life is full of shades of gray.

  28. Some good points Hawk. Perhaps some of those stories where nuance is needed should be left for later years, because like many here have said, what they really remember from primary is that they felt loved. It’s going to be difficult when I ask my son what he learned in primary and he tells me how evil earrings are, and how Lehi sailed to the U.S., and they continue to do the hand motions with “Book of Mormon Stories” which obviously reference modern-era Native Americans. I agree, we SHOULD be focusing on the love and the simple things of the gospel… and when things require more nuance or etc. perhaps we should leave it alone during the early years, or at least when possible, be accurate. It’s not about John Taylor’s watch, but that represents the problem to me: I don’t want my son to have his faith built on falsehoods.

  29. sxark“It sounds, as if, your friends were lied to. Could you be specific on what the lies/mistakes were?”

    I can’t specifically speak for them if they felt “lied to” or not (other than one, who specifically used that word). It seems to me that it is often the case that the teachers are well meaning, and are often really teaching what they believe… stuff like Darwin was Satan’s answer to JS, or the evils of birth control, or teaching how masturbation is a serious sexual sin in the context of sexual sins being next to murder, or faith promoting stories from history that turn out to really just be someone using history for their own purpose, such as JS refusing alcohol, or how Lehi’s descendants filled the western hemisphere… I’m sure we could all add to this list.

    I want to be clear that I’m not saying I have it all perfect now and I’m the expert. I’m sure in 30 years I’ll be embarrassed about something that I believed or thought, and realize how off it was. At the same time, we can’t allow the myths and the falsehoods to be perpetuated, and we ALSO need to be loving, not OVERLY critical, and actively engaged in personal growth and loving and serving others. It does not service to others, nor is it loving, to allow myth or error to be perpetuated. Stand for truth and righteousness! 🙂

  30. adamf:

    I noticed a few things you mentioned are still being debated by philosophers, which leaves open the possibility that primary and seminary teachers may still be more right than wrong in those areas of question.

    And, as parents, we may be left with the same responsiblities we have when engaging in religious discussions on the internet. – We must/should verify that what is taught or discussed matches up with official LDS policy on the matter and reinforce that viewpoint with our children. Wouldn’t you think so?

  31. We could all add to sxark’s list of inane and inaccurate comments heard at church. Interesting how no one corrects or chastizes the speaker unless the comments veer into church doctrine or positions–i.e. Proposition 8 or speculation about Heavenly Mother.

    Years ago I wondered why our bishop didn’t correct a high council speaker in our ward who told us not to buy Proctor & Gamble products because they had satanic images on their logo–moon and stars, I think. Lo and behold, the next day the bishop’s wife informed me she could no longer buy her favorite P&G detergent.

    It’s rough to live in a world where everyone’s not as smart as me.

  32. Post
    Author

    “leaves open the possibility that primary and seminary teachers may still be more right than wrong in those areas of question.”

    If I think something is false or immoral in the teachings of those areas of “question”, I feel I have to do something. In the very least, teach at home. But I think we all agree that we can’t be moral relativists and allow anything to be taught as long as that person happens to be the teacher, or in charge.

    Ann, that must be difficult. 😉

  33. Adamf: re #32

    Are you saying that you wouldn’t, first, check what the official position of the Church was on an area of question? – and what would you do should the official position conflict with your beliefs?

  34. Post
    Author

    I wasn’t saying that, and I’m confused at how that could be taken from my comment… but no worries. Also, what constitutes “Official Position” of the church is very little, in my opinion, and so far, at least for the topic in the post, the person I was referring to has not said anything that was an official position that I felt was false.

  35. Adamf:

    I was also referring to #30 because of the ‘problems’ that is the topic of this post. With new members coming into the Church, at the current pace, these ‘problems’ will grow and it would just be a wise course to be double checking, just to make sure etc.

  36. sxark – “It’s rough to live in a world where everyone’s not as smart as me.” Ain’t it the truth? But then I inwardly wince when I think that to someone smarter than me, I cause that reaction. If I ever meet that person, I’ll feel pretty sorry for them. 😉

  37. #30: sxark:

    I’m not actually sure what you mean by your comment that philosophers are still discussing these questions, and therefore teachers may be more wrong than right.

    Here are the examples that were given in the post preceding yours:

    “Stuff like Darwin was Satan’s answer to JS, or the evils of birth control, or teaching how masturbation is a serious sexual sin in the context of sexual sins being next to murder, or faith promoting stories from history that turn out to really just be someone using history for their own purpose, such as JS refusing alcohol, or how Lehi’s descendants filled the western hemisphere”

    I’m not aware of any of these being discussed still by philosophers. And for many of them, the Church’s position has changed officially or unofficially over the past few decades since they were taught. Do you honestly believe that masturbation is next to murder in seriousness? Do you honestly believe that everyone in the church today that uses birth control is on a serious path to hell? Do you really believe that Lehi’s descendants filled the western hemisphere? Do you really believe that JS refused alcohol for “religious” reasons, when our own church history contains examples of him drinking with the saints? Do truly you think that Hugh Nibley was completely deceived when he wrote about “pre-Adamites” and Darwin?

    These are ALL things that were widely taught in the church at one point. I would argue that NONE of these are currently debated by philosophers. And do you still honestly believe all of these?

  38. Post
    Author
  39. Somebody needs a new pair of rose colored glasses here.

    Hawkgirl: Who are you quoting? #37 I never said that.
    MikeS: You got my comment backwards from #30.

    Give me some time to answer you – have to do something else now.

  40. “all the stuff they were taught in primary and seminary that they found out later was twisted or just plain false. Letting the presidents and the teachers and etc. off the hook because they are “volunteering” evades the issue I think. I don’t want my son to be illusioned, nor disillusioned.” (#19)

    When I found out George Washington lied about his slave Olney being lured away by the French I threw away all my quarters. Seriously, we usually don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when we be become disillusioned. As a former Gospel Doctrine Teacher, Relief Society President, Stake Young Women’s President, I too cringe in Primary when mistakes are made by sweet meaning sisters full of good intentions. Fortunately, the bottom line is we are all saved by grace, not by knowledge or works. At my house we teach throughout life we will come across facts that will challenge what we have been taught as truth and it’s okay. Don’t let it be a stumbling block. Be flexible. Be charitable to the teachers in the past. Keep an open mind. My 21 and 18 year old sons are at that stage right now and are charting their own courses. I hope they won’t throw away their quarters or their religion because some parts of history was either accidentally or deliberately altered to fit the historians’ purposes. If getting everything perfect the first time was the most important mission on the earth then I think Lucifer would have been a better savior. Instead, I think it’s okay for us to make mistakes along the way and allow others the same priviledge — even without the correction in the hall. You may want my calling, Primay chorister is the Gospel Doctrine teacher of the primary.

  41. MikeS:

    re #38: I would try to be tactfull and use wisdom when discussing these subjects and would make a sincere attempt to follow official Church doctrine when discussing these issues with younger family members. Wouldn’t you?

    Of course, philosophers still quibble over these topics. Evolution is not yet a ‘slam dunk’.

    As far as if anyone “is on a serious path to Hell” – I think those who do not read, study, and ponder those principles that may assist them in flattening mountains and turning mud into water – may have some issues with their own progression.

    They may end up, receiving from Church Leaders half their age, requests to deliver cookies and cheery pies, from the Relief Society to those who ARE seriously engaged in such an endeavor, after all somebody has to deliver that stuff to those that work harder.

    The main question is: Do those items mentioned in your #38 and how you feel about those issues, impinge, in any way – one’s ability to flatten mountains or turn water into mud? I would say it does, therefore care should be taken.

  42. regarding #43,

    “Seriously, we usually don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when we be become disillusioned”

    I think this is generally true, but it sure is hard to be “disillusioned” over and over during a moment of weakness. Take church history, for example. It doesn’t take too much study for the faith promoting myths to whither in the bright light of historical examination, and if you’ve built much of your testimony on these things, you start to wonder what you can trust. Add personal problems and frustrations with local leadership to the mix, and suddenly you’re a disaffected Mormon, not knowing if you believe or not.

    No, I definitely think we need to purge the church of falsehood. I want my kids’ testimonies built on something solid. And, IMO, there’s plenty of faith-promoting truth out there. Let’s use that.

  43. Many of these posts raise questions about the LDS faith and practice that I am trying to understand, but still find difficult. Is the source of knowledge in the LDS divine revelation (the Prophet said…) or is it the findings of historical and scientific research coupled with rational dialogue?

    While this is a tension in most all of today’s religions, it seems particularly noticeable in the LDS. I suspect two things are behind this. First, the close proximity in time of Mormon origins and the nature of the Faith’s claims make it a bit more susceptible to historical criticism. Even though I am very sympathetic to the LDS, the historian in me finds almost no way to plausibly square what I read in LDS scriptures with what I learned in college in terms of history and historical method. (I could, however, affirm the truth or at least plausibility of much of its religious teaching.)Second, the spread of the Church into non-Mormon territory makes encounters with opposing viewpoints much more likely and perhaps more significant. It isn’t just the missionaries that are going to encounter a Baptist with a theological axe to grind. It’s Mormon kids in a Lansing, Michigan grade school.

    Put together these two factors create a climate where an appeal to personal spiritual testimony might not be quite as convincing as it once was or still might be in LDS geographic strongholds. So does this mean greater emphasis on Mormon apologetics? And if so, for what purpose? To bolster testimonies or to win converts? And would such an emphasis bolster testimony by providing intellectual support or undermine it by appealing to something other than spiritual experience and LDS scripture? (The latter criticism has been made by many in Christian history, most notably in Tertullian’s famous, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”)

    I know this goes beyond the primary level, but I would be curious to see how revelation and research play out in the education of Latter Day Saints. Is a “Thus says Joseph Smith” sufficient to decide matters or does it need a little something extra? And is it possible for the odd, “Maybe this isn’t what actually happened,” to have a place in the discussion without ending up in the LDS equivalent of the principal’s office?

    And if these questions are totally out of place in this discussion, please let the site manager get rid of this post quickly before I am totally embarrassed. Thanks

  44. Regarding #45. I agree, there are a lot of true faith promoting stories out there and the false ones shouldn’t be passed around, but how many people do you know that keep saying the phrase “free agency”? It takes a long time for some things to die out. It’s just easier to equip your children with the information and tools necessary to deal with faith promoting myths (we LDS do not hold a corner on the myth/urban legends market). Do we need to pull the primary worker out in the hall and embarass her for telling the story? It’s probably in her manual. Why don’t you write to the people who create the primary manuals and make a real impact church wide?

    When my Dad died I whispered to my sister at his funeral that I bet within two years we’d have him at saint status, she just laughed and said impossible. He verbally abused my Mom, was nice to us kids and ran a very rigid, authoritarian household. Sure enough, we only say the kindest of things about him eight years later. Why? Many reasons, but I bet the church historians sort of did the same things. I’m not saying its right, just human nature.

    Adding to the other problems leading to being a disaffected Mormon, been there, done that. Doctrinal problems (check), personal problems (check), problems with the local leadership (check and double check), standing before two roads (check), anger, frustration, pride, bargaining, walking off, walking back, humility, reading Job, personal inventory, honesty, trusting God, staying.(check)

    Just like every generation thinks they’ve invented sex, every generation also thinks they have discovered the importance of truth, their hand is the steadiest for carrying the ark, and their vision is the clearest. I know. My generation invented sex before yours did.

  45. Primary Chorister, you’re a breath of fresh air. I hope you’ll comment more often. Maybe you could lighten the mood over on the post about the unsealed portion of the Book of Mormon.

  46. David, you raise excellent issues. I think it is important to distinguish between internet Mormons and chapel Mormons. Chapel Mormons are much more likely to go with “the Prophet said…” approach, while internet Mormons are going to “historical and scientific research coupled with rational dialogue.” Frankly, I think that chapel Mormons outnumber internet Mormons by a wide margin. I think the LDS hierarchy would fall into the chapel Mormon group as well.

    I will say that as I have learned about the CoC, it seems the opposite is true. The CoC hierarchy would be more analogous to internet CoC, using “historical and scientific research coupled with rational dialogue”, while the chapel CoC are more likely to go with “the [CoC] Prophet said…” (and frankly it seems like they like to rely on their dead prophets more than the living ones, due to the more liberal stance of the current CoC leadership.)

  47. David Stout: re #46

    Your 1st question makes more sense as: “Is the source of knowledge: [1] Divine Revelation by LDS standards? or- [2] The findings of historical and scientific research coupled with rational dialogue”?

    The answer is: both – with Divine Revelation by LDS standards taking precedence as evidenced by D&C 8:3 – “Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation, behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground”.

  48. I understand sitting in primary and having opinions on how someone is doing their callings. It is so easy to armchair quarterback. I find that over the years I have watched people be replaced by others and then realize that the previous person may have had a particular weakness but their strengths become apparent once someone with different weaknesses shows up to do the calling.
    So while I sympathize with your problem I also think that you can probably imagine bigger faults for the primary teachers/presidency. People come as a package deals with their strengths and weaknesses.
    I occasionally substitute in a situation and it makes me far more forgiving of others. I realize that you can be nervous, you can make a mistake, you can mispeak, things don’t always go the way you had hoped or planned.
    It is also ok to approach a teacher/presidency member and tell them about a concern. For instance, you can say “Many people these days feel that the Book of Mormon Stories actions are not appropriate and have switched to a generic hand movement. Would you be willing to switch, because I am not comfortable with my son being taught this song with the old school actions?”
    I find it IS ok to put up a hand in primary and correct something simple in a positive way if it doesn’t destroy the entire lesson. I have interrupted a presidency member to add “It’s a PRETEND mission” when she has been telling everyone they are being called on a mission on Saturday for the primary activity and will find out where there mission will be. I have either raised my hand to add something, or approached the front in order to say something quietly (easier to do when you are already upfront).
    But most of it isn’t worth it. In actuality you will also be battling things that the teacher DIDN’T say but your child thinks the teacher said. Like my kindergarten child thinks that Charlie has a wheelchair BECAUSE he is the line leader. She is convinced that is what her teacher said.

  49. Heber13 – “But the world they are growing up in is different”

    This is a scary thought we are in uncharted territory due to access of information and changes in society as a whole. My initial thoughts would be milk before meat, perhaps it is wise to teach “faith promoting” versions of historical accounts. that is the way that I was raised. I gained some idealistic protection from it, was I mature enough then not to use historical criticisms as a justification to sin or rebel.

    despite a some moments of disillusionment I have turned out relatively fine. ***(WARNING this next part may not be suitable for those who believe in Santa)****When I found out that Father Christmas does not exist, I was still able enjoy Christmas, but would it have the same meaning if initially i wasn’t encouraged by stories of a jolly fat guy climbing down my chimney, and drinking the milk I left for him.

  50. jks:

    re#51 – good, relevent points. The last one says much: “…you will also be battling things that the teacher DIDN’T say but your child thinks the teacher said”. Mood and personality also gets misperceived and mixed up. – which all adds up to a ‘problem’. – that may be erased [see #24} by CS Eric. I like that one too.

  51. Pingback: Cafeteria Mormon? Try Take-out Mormon « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  52. I think ultimately, the key answer is simple in concept but can be hard in practice, because we are mortal.

    If the Spirit directs you, say something. If not, don’t.

    At home, I think the answer is the same. If we don’t teach by the Spirit, we are part of the problem. I think we have to be checking our hearts all the time. Are we teaching out of fear, frustration, criticism, sheer intellectual analysis, etc. or truly with the Spirit, guided by the Spirit, in a way that tries to help a child connect directly to God?

    In short, I think the way to ‘stand for something’ is to have the Spirit and to follow the Spirit. W/o the Spirit, we are as prone as anyone to errors in judgment and doctrine and teaching.

    I can’t help but think that the more we seek the Spirit, the less we will be inclined to correct and criticize. (I know when I feel the Spirit, I’m more apt to just have compassion for the fact that we are ALL weak and mortal, and yet God calls us and lets us serve each other (and be parents!) anyway!) If the Lord said He will use the weak things of the earth to thrash the nations, can He not use the weak things to teach and lead at church? I think ultimately HE’s the answer to the problem, not our correction or criticism. If we think it’s all on US to fix it all, I think we will risk getting in the way.

    I’m saying that to myself, because I am wired to be a feedback/change agent kind of person. But it DOES get in the way of me feeling the Spirit and teaching w/ the Spirit. And I’m convinced that if I’m not careful, my children will grow up a little too analytical for their own sakes. A little less compassionate than they should be. That can’t be any better (and may be much worse, seeing as they are my primary stewardship) than having a teacher teach something from history that may not be 100% correct or relevant.

    What a former bishop said comes to mind: “Sometimes we want to put our children in an armored car, but we have to help them learn how to put on the armor of God.” They WILL run into false doctrine — at church AND at home. That is simply part of the deal, because we are ALL mortal. Part of what we have to work through is how to accept weakness and ambiguity in the journey. And, imo, the more we can teach by the Spirit and help our children learn to experience and discern the Spirit, the better we can help them learn to work through all of that that they will face all their lives. The better we can let their Eternal Parent be the Primary Teacher (pun intended). To help them take the Holy Spirit as their guide so they won’t be deceived (a la D&C 45).

  53. Post
    Author

    Good points, M&M.

    Somehow we need to find a balance. We need to have charity AND stand for truth at the same time. I think it is possible. We can all at least start by accepting feedback from others with a lot more humility.

  54. Funny reading this, I get the opposite response from my wife. My wife hates Relief Society. The FPE’s and submission to your husband ‘dogma’ that is thrown in her face disgust her. She loves the faith and Jesus but the philosophy of men mingled with scriptures sicken her. She has not gone to church for over 3 years because of it. Its funny though the spiritual discussions are really good. She read the scriptures and listens to her priesthood leaders but wonders about what is taken out of context or privately interpreted… and I love her.

    There are a lot of viewpoints that I share with her. We click so well and I am grateful that I am her husband.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *